On December 16th at 3:46 a.m. PST, the new US-French Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) radar satellite began its journey to low earth orbit aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9. SWOT’s mission is to track sea levels, measure freshwater resources, and assess other changes in bodies of water over time. Although it’s not the first satellite to study the planet’s water, SWOT has major advantages over its predecessors.
The satellite is able to monitor water levels accurately through cloud cover and darkness using the Ka-band microwave frequencies of its two-wing radar interferometer. The instrument is sensitive enough to detect small ocean eddies, small whirlpools opposite to a main current, and fronts that draw heat down from the atmosphere, improving the quality of climate models. SWOT’s objective is also the first-ever global “inventory” of surface water and its fluctuations, helping us better understand and manage one of Earth’s most precious resources! Want to learn more about SWOT? Check out the links below!
NASA mission will give unprecedented view of Earth’s surface water
SWOT – Surface Water and Ocean Topography
Update 2: SWOT mission launch set for December 16th with online coverage by NASA LIVE TV
Live coverage: SpaceX launches U.S.-French environmental satellite
Satellite to take pulse of Earth’s water cycle ready for launch on SpaceX rocket